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Interview with an Iconic Entrepreneur

Thom Ruhe

One of the greatest gifts of my job is the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs. Born around the globe and bred from all walks of life, it never matters the entrepreneur’s background, nor does it matter the outcome of their venture—be it success or failure. From each entrepreneur I come to know, I glean a new sense of appreciation for this path they’ve chosen and learn even more about what makes these individuals so unique.

A couple weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to talk entrepreneurship with Barnett Helzberg, Jr., former CEO of—you guessed it—Helzberg Diamonds. An iconic entrepreneur in Kansas City, Barnett is the only one I’ve come to know personally who’s sold a company to Warren Buffet and to me, that says a little something about his ability to grow and run a business.

I have known Barnett for a while, prior to taping the latest Top of Mind episode with him. He’s also the founder of the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP), a program right here in Kansas City, MO that matches seasoned, successful entrepreneur mentors with less-experienced entrepreneurs. When he established the program, Barnett drew inspiration from his own 23-year mentoring relationship with Kauffman Foundation founder, Ewing Kauffman.

Needless to say, I have come to know Barnett well through his work with HEMP. But it wasn’t until our recent discussion that I learned even more about his and his family’s inspiring entrepreneurial journey—including the times when he thinks the now nationwide chain of more than 200 stores was close to going out of business. Watch the interview with Barnett…he has a few things to teach us all.

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